Hatsujô kateikyôshi: sensei no aijiru [The Glamorous Life of Satchiko Hanai] – Mitsuru Meike

21 Dec

Nationality: Japan (Where else?)

Year: 2003

DVD details: My Region 1 disk is rather poor actually, though i am unsure if that is the fault of the film or the DVD producer. Subtitles are non-removable but at least it is free from any blurring or pixilation.

I was resisting writing a review of this one so soon after Tokyo X, lest it seems that this site is too fixated on skin-flicks.  But . . . well . . .

By the time I had finished watching this story of a genius call-girl with a hole in her head who initiates nuclear Armageddon while spending most of the film on her back, blathering about Noam Chomski and Susan Sontag . . .

By the time I had watched said genius call girl being raped by the disembodied finger of George W Bush while being lectured from a grainy TV screen by one of the most bizarre animations of a US president I have ever seen . . .

By the time I had finished watching the shootout with fat North Korean security agents and the chilling ultimate use that Mr. Bush’s itchy ‘finger on the button’ always did seem destined for . . . while toy plastic American soldiers react in consternation . . .

Well – did I have any choice?

Let me get one thing straight here.  While Ringu and Dark Water and others may be amazing films, it is the quality of strangeness that is the main criteria for this site.  This is a site about the unexpected and the downright crazy.  Even the creatively fucked up.  Why?  Because it’s fun, these outer limits!  It demands a certain tolerance and love of the crazy, the dubious and the clumsy and, I think, is quite revealing about human creativity.  And also because it is too often marginalised because of their connotations (skin flick? Slasher movie?), even though it only takes a moment to realise how pointless that is, especially where Japanese stuff is concerned.  Many people have raved about J-Horror – see the wonderful snowblood apple for one of the best.  I want to add my voice to the more far-out creations.  And, considering the extremely rich seam that the Japanese pink films present, it is the duty of any self-respecting hunter of strange stuff to check them out. Yes?

The reason must lie in the nature of the pink film genre itself.  It seems that this is just about the only place where young maverick ‘underground’ or ‘far out’ directors have much hope of getting something made.  And just as long as there is enough skin etc. to keep the aficionados happy (it’s probably in the contract somewhere), you can do what you damn well please.  Yes yes, even art if you want, like Tokyo X.  Absurdist surrealism? – fine!  Political satire?  Fine!  George W Bush’s disembodied finger and panicking GI Joe-type dolls?  Yeah whatever.  I have to say – I find that admirable in a way!  Of course – the sheer amount of sex that results is a matter for individual consideration.  Do you care about that?  Does it bother you?  Will it utterly prevent you from looking at anything else in the film as it twists your perverted sense of aesthetics and of what is right and wrong?  I have to admit that it pushes things sometimes since Satchiko does literally get through most of the male cast at one point or another, with very little rhyme or reason.  However, i think that if you are going to get anywhere in Japanese films – pink films especially – you have to be able to accept the strange aesthetics sometimes inflicted. And the pink film foundation is an aesthetic of some kind. And actually though, compared to gratuitous sex in the west, this particular totally gratuitous sex is at least integrated somewhat better as a distinctly pinku part of Satchiko’s strange madness!

So, now for the important stuff. In this case, alongside the decided visual overload of Emi Kuroda’s backside and other bits (*ahem* not entirely unpleasant by any means – let’s be honest), we have the strange and slightly bizarre tale of a cheerful Japanese call girl who, as a bystander, gets a bullet in the brain during an assassination.  Instead of killing her (as it should), she begins to change, developing a ravenous need for information and spouting what is supposed to be advanced philosophy.  Her taste buds are playing up and her libido is going through the roof (always helpful in a pink film, isn’t it!) – all told, she is well and truly messed up by this head trauma.  And then there arrives on the scene the disembodied finger of Mr George W. Bush, the now ex president of the united states that a few people may have heard of.

Yup – that’s what I said.  The disembodied finger of Mr George W. Bush.  Actually, it is a clone of the finger, kept in a metal cylinder – just in case the all-important presidential fingerprint is ever needed in some recognition system when the original is not available to perform the service.  In short, it is the ‘finger on the button’ equivalent of writing down your passwords and, given that a North Korean agent is very keen to find this finger and that there is something very macabre lurking in the North Korean mountains, just about as secure!

It may be a clone, but that doesn’t stop it following Satchiko around, talking to her, getting . . . decidedly intimate with her – etc etc.  If your life-long passion has been to watch a pretty Japanese girl getting – er – fingered by one of the most infamous presidents in US history who isnt actually there – well, your search is over.  Satchiko, the finger and the sinister Korean agent are all on a collision course – and one of these three will bring about nuclear Armageddon.  It isn’t who you are probably thinking either.  And it isn’t the OTHER one you are probably thinking . . .

Hang on – let’s just hold up a moment here.  Re-read what I just said.  This is a porn flick – about a girl with a hole in her head – who brings about nuclear Armageddon – with the help of George W. Bush’s disembodied finger . . .

I mean – how do you come up with something like that? I swear to you – only the Japanese!  Only the Japanese could possibly be able to embrace such dubious randomness and somehow produce a film out of it.  A film that is totally ludicrous and silly and embarrassing – and yet, just, sort of, well . . . works!  No wonder reviewers describe this ‘wet-dream for intellectuals’ as a brain-melting experience.

Enter this film and you wave bye bye to logic, it’s as simple as that.  That isn’t exactly a criticism of course – more of a road sign that reads ‘Caution! End of Paved Surface Ahead’.  A warning that what we are in for could be disorienting and bumpy.  The strange powers that Satchiko has acquired are anything but focused and basically consists of whatever happens along that is useful to the plot.  At one point, you can look into that hole in her head and see . . . visions.  Sometimes she can see the future.  Sometimes it can guide her to places.  Sometimes she can converse with Bush’s finger by pressing it into the hole.  It is all very random.  The philosophy this ‘genius’ spouts is also largely hokey, I suspect – the ‘good bits’ snipped from Wikipedia or equivalent – but that doesn’t really matter as that in itself is basically a symptom of the strange changes that she has suffered since taking that bullet in the head.  And of course, the borderline between genius and madness is very thin.  And in her case, so is the boundary between genius and channelling information like a super-efficient parrot.  But the strangest thing about the whole film is the undefined ‘message’.  That is a horrible term and I am reluctant to use it but, even though the politics included in here has all the subtlety of a clog dance with a sledge hammer, one is still left wondering whether this film has a pro-war or anti-war sentiment.  And the answer appears to be neither.  Is Satchiko mad?  She’s – well – nice!  She’s a sweet-natured airhead, not a hellcat. Is she possessed by the evil George Bush’s finger?  Is she a negative force – even as she screws everyone in sight in her friendly way, simultaneously spouting Noam Chomsky et all?  Is there really any more to this story than “Oh dear – war.  It exists.  Aaaaagghh it’s GWB!  Hahaha I got you Satchiko.  Once I am inside you, you can never escape.  Then woohooo KABLAAAAAM!” Maybe there isn’t.  This is no ‘profound fable’ and the word subtle took one look at this story and stamped off in a huff to bother Takashi Miike instead.  And you know what – it may be frustrating but I kind of love it for just dancing its dance without adopting some ponderous anti-war or twisted pro-war outlook.  For my money, it succeeds almost perfectly at being what it wants to be – fun, crazy, stupid, sexy, wtf?, surreal, trippy and all the other adjectives that you can think of for a story like this.  And it definitely has that spark that enriches the stupid, crazy and wtf and makes it into something just a little special. Its freedom from logic is great and is not so far removed from surrealism.  And one is left unsure whether to laugh or cry – whether to be chilled to the bone or turned on.  The final scene – as the bullet suddenly falls out of her head and she becomes the cheerful airhead that she always was, even as three sinister contrails streak across the sky overhead – is downright chilling, both from within the film and the real world surrounding it.

Wet dream for intellectuals, my arse – its more like a dopey trip for fed-up, burnt out intellectuals who have lost all faith in logic AND philosophy.  Like me.  *ahem*

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